"There is still pressure to do everything, do everything well, and look hot while doing it. And I think that 'and look hot while doing it' part, that's the new piece. It used to be that having it all did not include looking hot... But now it does and it includes it at a really young age. And while princesses may not be hot, per se...although one could argue—in fact I have a lot of mothers telling me that there are a lot of girls who won't stop pulling their shirts off their shoulders because princesses don't cover their shoulders—it's the first step on that road of wanting to look in somebody else's mirror to have yourself reflected, instead of looking inside yourself."
The ambitious, and successful, documentary Going on 13 will begin broadcasting on Public Television this September. The 73 minute film (which is in English, Spanish and Hindi, with English subtitles) takes place over a period of four years and reveals the interior lives, family commitments and school days of Ariana, an African American, Esmeralda, a Mexican American, Isha, an immigrant from India, and Rosie, a mixed race Latina, as they navigate crossing the threshold from childhood to adolescence.
Directors Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Dawn Valadez's award winning project is an intimate look at a difficult transitional period for any child; their compassionate study is landmark not only in its ambition but that in it addresses the concerns of a diverse group of pre-teen and urban girls of color.
Moments we get to share include Ariana crying at her mother's wedding, Rosie discovering Allen Ginsberg at a local bookstore, Esme's sister's Quinceañera, and Isha's trip to India. We see them questioning the changes their bodies are making – or what they've heard those changes will be. One schoolmate asks, "Have your parent's talked to you about pube-er-tee? Do you have internal or external bleeding – or something like that?" Another friend says about a boy crush, "They are in love, even though they don't know what love is." A later scene featuring a woefully unqualified male schoolteacher conducting a sex education class makes it all the more painfully clear that our children receive mixed and confusing messages at a critical time, and that girls in particular are in need of female role models and support systems.
But they grow up anyway –with or without it. As Esme wisely puts it, "I'm turning into a young person and I'm supposed to change. I can't stay little all my life. I would if I could, but I can't so I shouldn't."
Co-directors, Guevara-Flanagan and Valadez graciously took the time to answer interview questions by email on their filmmaking careers, finding the girls (and where they are now), the logistics of such an ambitious project, and what they're currently working on. The first part follows; part two will be posted on Friday!
Peggy Orenstein grapples with it and so do many other feminist mamas, aunts, sisters, cousins, dads and uncles: what to buy your girl-feminist.
A Bitch reader named Maura recently wrote to us asking readers to weigh in about the "best books for budding feminists," especially six- and eight-year-old girls.
So, please take two seconds to channel your feminist girl-self and talk about the fiction that made you feel like you could do anything and become anyone.
I asked Kimmie David, one of the owners of Bluestockings—the radical bookstore, fair trade cafe, and activist center in the Lower East Side of Manhattan—to share her picks for the best feminist fiction or nonfiction books for girls. Read on for her recommendations!